Liturgy of the Catholic Church

Liturgy and Para-Liturgical Celebrations

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When an Orthodox Joins the Catholic Church

And More on Deacons

ROME, OCT. 16, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: What is the procedure for a person who was baptized Macedonian Orthodox and who now wants to be received into the Roman Catholic Church? — F.F., Toronto

A: In the vast majority of cases Orthodox Christians have been validly baptized, confirmed and received the Eucharist from infancy, and thus do not have to receive any of these sacraments.

Likewise, Catholic canon law allows a Catholic priest to administer the sacraments of Eucharist, reconciliation and anointing to Orthodox Christians if their own minister is unavailable or for other just causes. (Most Orthodox Churches, however, do not approve of their faithful availing of this possibility.)

For this reason Orthodox Christians intending to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church would usually be able to participate in the Church’s sacramental life even before their formal incorporation, either in the Latin rite or in an Eastern Catholic rite.

Prior to formal incorporation, they would still require a dispensation from the bishop before entering into marriage and a man could not enter into seminary formation. Nor could they receive any formal ministry.

The specific process for incorporating a baptized Eastern Christian is covered above all in the Code of Canon Law of the Eastern Churches, canons 35 and 896-901.

Canon 896 specifies that for those adult Christians (beyond 14 years) “who ask of their own accord to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church, whether as individuals or as groups, no burden is to be imposed beyond what is necessary.”

Canon 897 indicates that the Christian may be received “With only the profession of faith after a doctrinal and spiritual preparation that is suited to the person’s condition.”

With respect to individual laypersons the right to receive usually pertains to the pastor although in some cases particular law might reserve this admission to a higher authority (cf. Canon 898.3).

Canon 35, however, is important because it specifies that baptized non-Catholics entering into full communion “should retain their own rite and should observe it everywhere in the world as far as humanly possible. Thus they are to be ascribed to the Church ‘sui iuris’ of the same rite.”

When the person wishes not only to become Catholic but to change to the Latin rite, the same canon recognizes the right to approach the Holy See (the Congregation for Eastern Churches) in special cases.

Therefore, in the case at hand, the simplest thing to do is to approach the Eastern eparchy most closely resembling his original rite in order to be admitted into the Catholic Church in accordance with the dispositions of the pastor.

Once admitted, he should continue to practice the faith in the corresponding Eastern rite. But he may also freely practice in the Latin rite for a just cause, for example, if there were no churches of his own rite within a reasonable distance.

In order to formally switch rites, he would need to recur to the Holy See as mentioned above.

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Follow-up: What a Deacon Can Do

Two readers offered friendly criticism of an expression used in my Oct. 2 column on what a deacon can and cannot do.

One wrote: “Father McNamara says that the deacon is of a ‘lower grade’ of order than a priest. While such a designation might be accurate in terms of reflecting the liturgical faculties associated with the diaconate, it seems to suggest that a deacon is in some way subservient to a priest, which I believe is a trivialization of the ordained ministry of service. Rather than a strict hierarchical construct in which the line might be a straight one from bishop to priest to deacon, my understanding of the diaconate, traditionally and in our contemporary context, is that the ordained deacon is directly accountable to the bishop. That is, of a class of order unique to itself.”

Another added: “You state that the deacon is a lower grade than a priest. ‘Lumen Gentium,’ No. 29, does indeed say ‘at a lower level of hierarchy are deacons,’ but it does go on to say ‘in communion with the Bishop and the presbyterate.’ So though there is a hierarchical difference between deacon and priest, and of course bishop and priest, there is also a fundamental unity and communion. Talk of lower grades by itself does not seem to me to do justice to this understanding of Vatican II.

“I do not think priests would welcome being told they are a lower grade than bishops, full stop. That would again not do justice to a proper understanding of priesthood and their share in the high priesthood of Christ to which a bishop is ordained.” The writer went on to say that a deacon is an ordained minister, who, like a priest, shares in the apostolic ministry of the Church “but with a distinct, different and differentiated but not lesser ministry than the priest.”

While I appreciate both the interest and the sincere friendliness of these observations, I believe that the term is technically accurate from the point of view of the sacrament of orders. Bishop, priest and deacon are not three separate sacraments but different levels (or grades or degrees) of the one sacrament of holy orders.

Each level has its own value and its proper sphere of ministry and specific liturgical functions. Yet, they are not simply three distinct modes of orders but are indeed hierarchically structured. The deacon has many particular functions, but insofar as he is at the service of the Eucharistic mystery his ministry necessarily depends upon and is related to the priestly ministry, not as subservience but as service.

Given that the Eucharist is the center and lifeblood of the Church, all other possible diaconal ministries such as celebrating baptism and matrimony ultimately flow from the priest’s Eucharistic ministry.

However, the priest’s Eucharistic ministry, and hence the deacon’s relatedness to him, in turn depends on the bishop and finally upon Christ himself as the foundation of all the sacraments.

In this sense of sacramental and hierarchical communion and interdependence, it is no slight to a deacon to state the fact that his is a lower grade of the sacrament of orders, just as the priest’s dignity is in no way demeaned by saying that he is at a lower grade of orders compared to the bishop. This is implied in the Latin text of the prayer of priestly ordination which asks that the candidate receive the second grade or degree of priestly ministry.

For this reason I believe that our first correspondent’s affirmation regarding the deacon and priest’s direct accountability to the bishop confuses two distinct spheres. One thing is that all clerics depend directly upon the bishop with regard to assignments and ministries; another is the specific liturgical functions, which depend on the nature of the sacrament itself.

As stated in the previous article, among the practical consequences of this sacramental reality is that the deacon should not ordinarily preside over the assembly whenever a priest is present and available, just as a priest should not normally preside over the assembly in the presence of a bishop.

There may be some legitimate exceptions to this general rule, but I believe that it is important to recognize that this rule is grounded in the nature of the sacrament and is not a mere question of protocol and human criteria.



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Mentioning the Mass Intention

And More on Multiple Chalices

ROME, OCT. 9, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: Unlike our present pastor, our former priest always would mention the intention for the Mass. Is this up to the individual priest? It gets printed in our bulletin, but I would hope the priest would mention who the Mass is for at some point, even though I know God knows who it is for. — L.S., St. Louis, Missouri

A: While there are no universal laws regarding this topic, some dioceses have published norms with common-sense indications that all priests may take into account.

My reply is inspired by the norms issued by the Diocese of Rome.

There is no requirement to mention the priest’s intention at the Mass. Thus, a mention in the bulletin or some other public notification is a legitimate option, especially when the pastor is aware that the person who requested the Mass will not be present at the celebration.

If the person or family who requested the intention wishes to be present, then it is good that the celebrant mention the name of the person for whom the Mass is being offered.

This may best be done either after the greeting at the beginning of Mass or as an intention of the prayer of the faithful.

The name should not normally be mentioned during the Eucharistic prayer. This naming is best left for funeral Masses, Masses at the notification of death, and significant anniversaries. The special formulas for funerals, especially in Eucharistic Prayers 2 and 3, were specifically composed with such occasions in mind and were not conceived for daily recitation.

It should be remembered that the Mass intention refers above all to the intention of the celebrating priest who took upon himself the commitment to celebrate for a specific intention when he accepted a stipend.

Since the Mass is infinite the priest may also have other personal intentions that may or may not be reflected in the Mass formula used.

For example, a priest may offer the Mass for a deceased soul while at the same time using the Mass formula “For Vocations,” with the personal intention of asking God to bless the Church with abundant vocations.

Likewise, while any person assisting at Mass is free to associate his prayer with the intention of the priest celebrant, he or she is also free to offer up participation at the Mass for any number of personal intentions.

We also have dealt amply with the topic of intentions and stipends in our columns of Feb. 22 and March 8 in 2005.
Follow-up: Using Multiple Ciboria and Chalices

In the wake of our comments on multiple vessels (Sept. 25) a reader asked: “When several chalices are prepared for a concelebrated Mass, my understanding is that it is correct to add water to the wine only in the ‘main’ chalice, and that it is not necessary to add water to the wine in all the chalices. Is there any official document in which this is specified?”

This point has been discussed by liturgists, but no consensus has been found. Nor am I aware of any official norms on this particular subject.

Some liturgists hold the position that it is sufficient to add water to the chalice of the principal chalice, which thus forms a moral unity with the other chalices for the purpose of consecration.

This argument is fairly solid from the theological standpoint, and there would certainly be no doubt that the consecration would be valid and licit.

It also solves the problem of the rather ungainly sight of a deacon or priest pouring a drop of water into several chalices already arrayed upon the altar.

It is not, however, universal liturgical practice. Many celebrants prefer to place water in all chalices, along with wine, so that all communicants can receive from wine that has been mixed with water according to ancient Church tradition.

This may be done in two ways. If there are only a couple of extra chalices, then wine and water, or just water (if the extra chalices are already prepared) may be placed in all of them during the preparation of the gifts.

If there are many chalices, then water and wine may be placed in all but the principal chalice when the chalices are prepared before Mass begins.

This latter solution is generally practiced by the Vatican sacristans for large concelebrations at St. Peter’s.



What a Deacon Can Do

And More on Altar Cloths

ROME, OCT. 2, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: In our parish we have a temporary overseas priest and a married deacon. During Benediction our married deacon consistently wears the full vestments that a priest wears for Benediction; says the Divine Praises; and elevates the monstrance while the overseas priest either sits watching in the pew or acts as an acolyte, swinging the thurible. The priest only wears an alb or even just plain clothes with no vestments, and remains kneeling. Several parishioners are much disturbed and have said so. I have asked the deacon why he wears the priest’s vestments. His answer: “I’m an ordained minister.” My reply was, “But you are not a priest.” I asked, “Who has given you authority to do this?” He stated that the bishop has. There are other irregularities which he persists in during the Mass. He stands throughout the prayers; takes the host from the ciborium given to him by the overseas priest; mouths the doxology; and even holds the paten containing the host. — R.I., state of New South Wales, Australia

A: Some distinctions should be made. Although the deacon is an ordained minister, he is of a lower grade than a priest and therefore he should not preside over the community if a priest is present.

Therefore in normal cases a deacon may not give a blessing, and even less so Benediction, if a priest is present and available.

He may do so if the priest is legitimately impeded, for example, if the priest were hearing confessions during exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and could not leave the confessional to impart Benediction.

In those cases where the deacon legitimately imparts Benediction, either because there is no priest or the priest is impeded, the deacon may wear the same vestments as the priest: the stole albeit worn in the manner of a deacon, the cope and the humeral veil. He may also recite or sing the same prayers as the priest. He does not need any special permission from the bishop to wear these vestments as the rubrics already foresee it.

The other actions that our correspondent describes are aptly termed irregularities. The deacon should usually kneel for the consecration, silently hold up the chalice (not the paten) for the doxology, and should always receive Communion from the priest and not self-communicate.

Rather than any special permission or dispensation from the bishop (who is unlikely to dispense from basic liturgical law for no reason), such errors are more probably due to bad habits and imperfect liturgical formation. The person responsible for correcting them is the pastor, the priest celebrant, or even the bishop if the local priest is unwilling.

When a deacon is ordained he promises the bishop and the Church that he is willing to carry out the diaconal service with humility and love as a cooperator of the priestly order and for the good of the Christian people. If he lives up to his promise, then he will gladly correct any errors that might have crept in.

The Web site of the U.S. bishops’ conference has a useful document “The Deacon at Mass,” based on the latest norms from the Holy See.

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Follow-up: Altar Cloths

A priest reader from British Columbia sent in some more information regarding cloths that may be placed upon the altar (see Sept. 18 column).

He wrote: “There is the practice, not universal, of placing a cerecloth, a cloth made waterproof by being soaked in wax. It was placed immediately under the altar cloth to prevent, in the case of accident, any spilled Precious Blood seeping through to other cloths or coverings. Apparently this type of cloth was also used in wrapping a corpse. Hence, the mind might allow for a connection between the Bloody Sacrifice of Calvary and the Un-bloody Sacrifice of the Holy Mass.”

A reader from Israel asked: “Is there or was there a rite or prayers to prepare an altar that hasn’t been used recently for Mass and hasn’t had the Blessed Sacrament present for a while? Perhaps called ‘dressing the altar’?”

In most cases an altar that has been unused for some time does not lose its original dedication and there is no need to be dedicated or blessed anew.

A suitable way of underlining the return to use is with a new set of liturgical objects, such as a new altar cloth and other linens. These may be blessed at the beginning of Mass using the appropriate rites and formulas described in the Book of Blessings.

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Readers may send questions to liturgy@zenit.org. Please put the word “Liturgy” in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.



Using Multiple Ciboria and Chalices

And More on Spanish Homilies

ROME, SEPT. 25, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: Can you advise as to the correct procedure when arranging ciboria and chalices on the altar following the receiving of the gifts? Given that during a large celebration there will be a number of chalices and ciboria, is it appropriate to arrange them symmetrically giving pride of place to the celebrant’s chalice and ciborium? There are those self-proclaimed liturgists who would insist that as there “is only ONE bread and ONE body,” only the celebrant’s chalice and paten/ciborium should be placed centrally on the corporal and the additional vessels should be placed “to one side.” This seems to me to fly in the face of consecration of the elements. — I.M., Island of Jersey, United Kingdom

A: Among the most explicit norms touching on this theme are the norms published by the U.S. bishops’ conference on Communion under both kinds. Although these norms have no legal force outside of the States, they are indicative and have been approved by the Holy See.

Among other practical suggestions they say:

“32. Before Mass begins, wine and hosts should be provided in vessels of appropriate size and number. The presence on the altar of a single chalice and one large paten can signify the one bread and one chalice by which we are gathered ‘into the one Body of Christ, a living sacrifice of praise.’ When this is not possible, care should be taken that the number of vessels should not exceed the need.

“At the Preparation of the Gifts

“36. The altar is prepared with corporal, purificator, Missal, and chalice (unless the chalice is prepared at a side table) by the deacon and the servers. The gifts of bread and wine are brought forward by the faithful and received by the priest or deacon or at a convenient place. (Cf. GIRM, no. 333). If one chalice is not sufficient for Holy Communion to be distributed under both kinds to the Priest concelebrants or Christ’s faithful, several chalices are placed on a corporal on the altar in an appropriate place, filled with wine. It is praiseworthy that the main chalice be larger than the other chalices prepared for distribution.”

On the one hand, these norms present the preferred situation of a single chalice and one large paten. On the other, they bow to the reality of many different situations and wisely abstain from offering rigid proposals for all circumstances.

This same flexibility may be used in responding to the question at hand.

While certainly pride of place must always be given to the celebrant’s chalice and paten, placing them directly in front of him, other chalices and ciboria may be arranged either beside the principal vessels on a single large corporal or on other corporals placed upon the altar.

In some very large concelebrations with many vessels, a special corporal covering almost the entire altar table and placed before Mass is sometimes used, as the vessels take up most of the available space.

Among the factors to be taken into account is the number of vessels. If we are speaking of but one or two extra vessels, then having everything on a single corporal is probably preferable. If there are many vessels, then extra corporals would be preferred, located in such a way so as not to block the view of the main vessels and also respecting common-sense symmetry and aesthetics.

Other elements to be considered include the size of the altar, the logistics of the various movements, the number of concelebrants and faithful, and the method chosen for distributing holy Communion. Since all of these might vary from one celebration to the next, there is no universal rule that can be applied to all cases.

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Follow-up: Spanish Homilies Read by a Layman

Several attentive readers offered input on our Sept. 11 commentary regarding a layman reading a priest’s homily in Spanish.

Some readers illustrated the huge difficulties faced by many priests seeking to accommodate the influx of Spanish-speaking parishioners throughout the continental United States, including in some unexpected regions.

One reader pointed out these difficulties are often compounded by the fact that not all immigrants speak the same variety of Spanish. And there are even rural immigrants from countries such as Peru and Mexico for whom Spanish is not their first language.

In such cases, even standard Spanish can leave them perplexed in a similar way as happens to English-speaking Americans visiting England who discover the truth behind Churchill’s quip that they are two countries separated by the same language.

In my earlier reply I had supposed that the solution of simultaneous translation was rather uncommon. An experienced reader, however, informed me that this is often the preferred and best solution in many parishes.

He wrote: “Simultaneous translation maintains the original ‘communicative’ rapport of the pastor with his flock. My recent experience of this situation in the USA is that the level of English among the [Spanish-speaking] listeners is extremely diverse. Some will understand 100%, others 80%, 50%, etc. Those who have no knowledge of English have the live translation, and they can also perceive the personality of the priest in his intonations, facial expressions and gestures. It establishes a much more personal relationship than simply listening to a written text read to them.

“I have seen priests do this in an engaging way that manages to create a very lively rapport with the congregation, even without the homilists’ speaking a single word of their language. In the situation described, there are surely people willing to do the simultaneous translation and, in the end, all will benefit greatly from it.”

If an immediate simultaneous translation is not feasible, but it is possible for someone to translate the text of the homily ahead of time, then I believe that the best solution is that the priest preach the homily in English and after each paragraph or principal point some other person read the translation, preferably using a different microphone.

While I know of no official document forbidding it, I still maintain that having a layperson read the whole homily in lieu of the priest is not a proper solution. The nature of the homily as a communication of the ordained minister should be preserved as far as possible.

Likewise it is necessary to avoid even the appearance of any confusion of ministerial roles or of a layperson delivering the homily. Most regular parishioners are capable of distinguishing between a layperson reading and preaching the homily. But in the highly mobile U.S. society, visitors are frequent, and it is best to avoid all possibility of scandal.

It is also true that some input from the lay reader is inevitable as nobody can read a text without putting himself into it. Words that are read are never merely someone else’s communication.



Spanish Homilies Read by a Layman

 

And More on Devotions During Mass

ROME, SEPT. 11, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: Our parish has one Mass in Spanish. None of the priests and deacons is a native Hispanic, but the priests make every effort on their part to say Mass in Spanish. They are improving. I am one of the deacons and am fluent in Spanish, having lived in Spanish-speaking countries for several years. The pastor has his English homilies translated into Spanish. I read the Gospel in Spanish and sit down while a native Spanish-speaking layman reads the homily. Another priest has his English homily translated also, but he reads it himself. Is it permitted for the layperson to read the homily? — R.M., Huntersville, North Carolina

A: In first place, one must duly recognize the zeal and effort made by many English-speaking priests in the United States to meet the pastoral needs of the growing Spanish-speaking population.

Learning a new language is never easy, and doing so when one is already advanced in life is yet more daunting.

That said, I do not believe that having a layperson read out a translation of a homily is a viable solution. It is likely to cause confusion and leave the impression that the layperson is actually giving the homily itself, a practice which has been repeatedly prohibited.

Also, a homily is more that just a text that is read; it is closer to a conversation, a personal communication in which the ordained minister explains God’s word and exhorts the faithful to live in accordance with what they have heard. Therefore the personal element is very relevant to the efficacy of the communication itself.

With this in mind the best solution is always that the priest read his prepared text. My experience with Spanish speakers is that they are almost universally grateful and edified when the minister makes the effort to speak in their language. They are also very tolerant and forgiving of errors and slip-ups.

While having the deacon read the text avoids the problem of confusing ministerial roles, it is still an imperfect solution from the personal communicative point of view.

Since the deacon may also give the homily, it would probably be better that the pastor entrust him with this task until he acquires a sufficient dominion of the language. Of course, the pastor could indicate to the deacon the principal ideas that he would like the deacon to develop in the homily he delivers.

Another, less perfect, but legitimate, solution would be to deliver the homily in English while someone else, either the deacon or a layperson, either simultaneously translates the homily or reads a prepared text afterward. This kind of solution is more common when the Mass is celebrated by a foreign ecclesiastical dignitary who preaches in a language unknown to most of the hearers.

There might, however, be some extraordinary cases when the homily may be simply read by someone else due to some impediment on the part of the celebrant. This was the case in the final years of Pope John Paul II when his ability to speak clearly was increasingly impaired by illness.

There are many useful pastoral resources available on the Internet for priests and deacons. One of these, ePriest, has a special section offering Spanish-language homilies in text and audio.

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Follow-up: Novenas and Devotions During Mass

In the wake of our column on mixing devotions and Mass (Aug. 28) a priest from Conway Springs, Kansas, asked for a clarification.

I had written: “[I]t is incorrect to mingle any devotional exercise such as a novena or non-liturgical litanies within the context of the Mass.” Our correspondent asked: “Could you clarify the difference between ‘non-liturgical litanies’ and ‘liturgical litanies’? Are the only ‘liturgical litanies’ those in the sacramentary (e.g., at the Easter Vigil or an ordination)? I was taught that certain litanies, such as of the Sacred Heart, were approved for use within a liturgy of the Church.”

By “liturgical litanies” I referred to the various litanies specifically found in the liturgical books for the celebration of Mass as well as other sacraments (such as baptism, ordination and anointing of the sick) and sacramentals, such as the crowning of an image of Our Lady.

These would be the only litanies used as a specific rite within Mass, although some other forms of prayer, such as the prayer of the faithful and the Kyrie, are also technically litanies.

As our correspondent says, there are other approved litanies that may be used in public worship, such as during exposition (if consonant with the aims of adoration) and other public devotions and novenas. The principal approved litanies are found in the Roman Ritual and are also listed in the Enchiridion of Indulgences (concession 22.2 partial indulgence).

The litanies (liturgical and devotional) thus universally approved are the litanies of the Holy Name, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Precious Blood, Blessed Virgin Mary (those of Loreto and the Queenship, which is used as part of the order of crowning an image), St. Joseph and All Saints.

Many other litanies have been approved either for private use of the faithful or in some cases for particular groups.

Among such litanies are the litany of Jesus Christ Priest and Victim, much beloved by Pope John Paul II, and the litany of Divine Mercy, both of which are often prayed in common. Others, usually prayed privately by individuals, include the litany of the Holy Spirit, of the Infant Jesus, of the Blessed Sacrament, of the Passion, and for the souls in purgatory.

The distinction between private and public use derives above all from the 1917 Code of Canon Law (Canon 1259.2). It forbade the public recitation of litanies that had not been approved by the Holy See. This prohibition included not only the public recitation of unapproved litanies by priests but extended to particular groups of the faithful who prayed in common without an ordained minister present.

This canon has not been retained in the present code. And while the law today is somewhat more flexible, it does not necessarily mean that all litanies formally approved for private use can now be publicly used.

There were and are good reasons for not multiplying the number of public litanies. Canon 839.2 of the 1983 Code directs the local ordinary to assure that “the prayers and pious and sacred exercises of the Christian people are fully in keeping with the norms of the Church.”



Slide Shows at Homilies

Slide Shows at Homilies

And More on Sacristans

ROME, SEPT. 4, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: Are there guidelines for slide shows shown during the homily at Mass? Are there guidelines for who (pastor/bishop) can authorize slide shows? Are there guidelines for the music played during a slide show? Is it OK to have a slide show and no homily? — M.M., Howell, New Jersey

Q: Each year, in our archdiocese, on two Sundays the homily at all the Masses is replaced by a recorded fund-raising appeal, one for the archdiocesan annual appeal and one for Catholic Charities. The celebrant does not give a separate homily. In the past it has been an audio recording; one year it was to be a video. I am not at all opposed to giving money to the archdiocesan appeal and Catholic Charities, but this seems like an abuse of the rubrics for Mass. — B.W., Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

A: The most recent norms regarding the homily are found in the instruction “Redemptionis Sacramentum.” Here are two key norms:

“[64.] The homily, which is given in the course of the celebration of Holy Mass and is a part of the Liturgy itself, ‘should ordinarily be given by the Priest celebrant himself. He may entrust it to a concelebrating Priest or occasionally, according to circumstances, to a Deacon, but never to a layperson. In particular cases and for a just cause, the homily may even be given by a Bishop or a Priest who is present at the celebration but cannot concelebrate.’

“[67.] Particular care is to be taken so that the homily is firmly based upon the mysteries of salvation, expounding the mysteries of the Faith and the norms of Christian life from the biblical readings and liturgical texts throughout the course of the liturgical year and providing commentary on the texts of the Ordinary or the Proper of the Mass, or of some other rite of the Church. It is clear that all interpretations of Sacred Scripture are to be referred back to Christ himself as the one upon whom the entire economy of salvation hinges, though this should be done in light of the specific context of the liturgical celebration. In the homily to be given, care is to be taken so that the light of Christ may shine upon life’s events. Even so, this is to be done so as not to obscure the true and unadulterated word of God: for instance, treating only of politics or profane subjects, or drawing upon notions derived from contemporary pseudo-religious currents as a source.”

It is clear, therefore, that the priest or deacon who gives the homily must be physically present. Thus, tapes or videos cannot replace the homily.

Likewise the proper place for an appeal is preferably after the post-Communion prayer, although in some cases a priest may effectively tie in a direct appeal with the themes of the liturgy during the homily. If a taped appeal is to be made, a priest may shorten his homily so as not to prolong the Mass.

It could be argued that when the bishop himself makes the tape or video, it is merely a modern version of a pastoral letter. These letters, which the bishop addresses to the whole diocese as its pastor, usually deal with matters of particular concern. Because of their importance they are sometimes read out at Mass in place of the homily.

A case could be made for this argument, but I believe that when dealing with regular annual appeals, and not some particular pastoral concern, it is still better to place them at the end of Mass and not replace the homily.

I am unaware of specific norms regarding the use of slide shows or presentations. But the norms above would certainly exclude the substitution of the homily by a presentation.

Another question is if they may be used as aids to the homily. The question has been debated among pastoral liturgists and I find the arguments against their use more convincing.

Images tend to remind people of television and thus they tend to induce a passivity that distracts from the core message being transmitted by the words.

Some would argue that “an image is worth a thousand words,” but this is a fallacy for whatever message is suggested by an image is understood in words by our linguistic intelligence. We think and hear in words, and nothing is understood without words. The spoken word is indispensable for all interpersonal communication.

Faith, as St. Paul said, is transmitted above all by hearing — which is one reason why preaching has always been privileged in Church practice.

* * *

Follow-up: A Sacristan’s Duties

After our piece on the duties of the sacristan (Aug. 21) a priest kindly notified us of a useful resource for sacristans. He wrote:

“Here is another resource for you in reference to the sacristan question. There is a manual called ‘The Sacristy Manual,’ published by Liturgy Training Publications, by G. Thomas Ryan. It gives some valuable information.”

It is worthwhile mentioning that several Catholic publishing houses have issued useful liturgical guidebooks and resources addressing various aspects of liturgical service. For example, Paulist Press published this year W.T. Ditewig’s “The Deacon at Mass,” a very recommendable theological and practical guide to what the deacon should and should not do.

I would probably quibble with the author regarding a couple of minor technicalities, but then liturgists are wont to quibble over such things.

* * *

Readers may send questions to liturgy@zenit.org. Please put the word “Liturgy” in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.



Novenas and Devotions During Mass

And More on “Sin” and “Sins”

ROME, AUG. 28, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: I have seen novenas prayed together by the congregation, led by the priest directly after the Gospel of a weekday Mass. Is this correct? — C.H., Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Q: I was wondering if it is appropriate to insert the Chaplet of Divine Mercy into the liturgy? Our parish recited this after the homily on Divine Mercy Sunday, led by our pastor. It seemed as if a beautiful, but optional, devotion was forced on a captive congregation. — L.S., Hutchinson, Kansas

A: This topic referred to in these two questions is dealt with in the December 2001 document “Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy,” published by the Congregation for Divine Worship.

No. 13 of this document states: “The objective difference between pious exercises and devotional practices should always be clear in expressions of worship. Hence, the formulae proper to pious exercises should not be commingled with the liturgical actions. Acts of devotion and piety are external to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, and of the other sacraments.

“On the one hand, a superimposing of pious and devotional practices on the Liturgy so as to differentiate their language, rhythm, course, and theological emphasis from those of the corresponding liturgical action, must be avoided, while any form of competition with or opposition to the liturgical actions, where such exists, must also be resolved. Thus, precedence must always be given to Sunday, Solemnities, and to the liturgical seasons and days.

“Since, on the other [hand], pious practices must conserve their proper style, simplicity and language, attempts to impose forms of ‘liturgical celebration’ on them are always to be avoided.”

Therefore it is incorrect to mingle any devotional exercise such as a novena or non-liturgical litanies within the context of the Mass; this mixing respects neither the nature of the Eucharistic celebration nor the essence of the pious exercise. Novenas or non-liturgical litanies may, however, be recited immediately before or after Mass.

Some readers ask if devotions may be carried out during Eucharistic adoration. The above-mentioned directory suggests in No. 165: “Gradually, the faithful should be encouraged not to do other devotional exercises during exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.” It adds, however: “Given the close relationship between Christ and Our Lady, the rosary can always be of assistance in giving prayer a Christological orientation, since it contains meditation of the Incarnation and the Redemption.”

Although the rosary is the only devotion specifically mentioned, it is possible that other devotions that can likewise be given a Christological orientation. These include novenas in preparation for Christmas and other feasts, which could be used as vocal prayers and acclamations immediately before Benediction.

This would not be the case for a novena or devotion to a particular saint.

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Follow-up: Gloria’s “Sin” and Agnus Dei’s “Sins”

Pursuant to our debate (July 24) on whether the Latin “peccata mundi” should be translated “sin” or “sins” of the world, an Indian priest from Mumbai sent in the following reflection (excerpted here) which I gladly share:

“There has always been confusion among quite a few on the singular and the plural aspect of sin. The English text of Scripture, which is faithful to the original, always uses the singular aspect of sin when it talks of the role of Agnus Dei (John 1:29,36).

“There is a sin which is referred to in the singular sense and there are sins which plurally mean the many areas of sins we as human beings commit. The singular normally refers to the original sin committed by our first parents and now through conception passed on to us.

“Christ Jesus came into the world to destroy this work of the devil (1 John 3:8), that is,

1) The darkness of evil that prevents us to have a right knowledge of God. Jesus repairs this flaw by revealing to us God as Abba Father and giving us his Spirit that bears witness with our spirit, even calling God Abba Father.

2) His shedding of blood and death is that ransom taking us out from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of his beloved. This for us is the beginning of a new life sealed with Christ’s life in baptism that has to now struggle against the concupiscence of sin.

“The proclamation of the Gospel is an invitation to faith and reconciliation and is made complete through baptism. The sacraments, especially of reconciliation, are primarily our constant struggle against the concupiscence of sin. This is where the dividing line of sin and sins diminishes, where ultimately they are one reality.”

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Readers may send questions to liturgy@zenit.org. Please put the word “Liturgy” in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.